Peace hopes run highest in Germany, where Die Welt and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung both led Wednesday with upbeat reports on the new flurry of diplomatic activity over Kosovo. Die Welt quoted German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as saying the next few days will be “decisive.” The paper also reported strong speculation that German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping will be the next secretary-general of NATO, succeeding Spaniard Javier Solana, who is expected to be appointed this week as the first foreign policy supremo of the European Union. His official title will be “high representative” for European foreign and security policy, but according to the Financial Times of London, he is already colloquially known as “Mr. Pesc” after the French acronym for the job.
In an editorial Wednesday, the FT described Solana as an excellent choice for a position that requires “both a sure-footed diplomat and a super-salesman.” It said, “Mr. Solana will be the European on the end of the telephone to take calls from Washington–a figure whose absence was always bemoaned by Henry Kissinger.” A front-page report in the International Herald Tribune of Paris said U.S. officials are confident that Solana “would help guarantee that EU military cooperation fits with NATO and does not challenge the Western alliance’s primacy in European security.”
Having apparently forgotten that only last week they ruled out Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as a negotiating partner because of his indictment for war crimes, most British newspapers were taking this week’s Belgrade talks very seriously. “Crunch talks on Kosovo” was the main headline in the liberal Guardian, which said the discussions will decide whether NATO halts the bombing or launches a ground war. “Vital hours for Kosovo peace” said the Times. The Daily Telegraph noted that the European Union’s negotiator, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, is the first Western leader to visit Belgrade since the start of the bombing campaign March 24 and that “hopes were higher than at any time.” But the Independent’s Kosovo lead was the killing of Yugoslavia’s deputy air force commander, Gen. Ljubisa Velickovic, in a NATO air raid. It called this a “success” to be weighed against NATO’s continuing “blunders.”
Another military blunder made the front page of the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong. This was the death of 10 pupils during Indian shelling of a school in Kashmir. As India’s efforts to evict Pakistan-backed Muslim guerrillas from the disputed territory entered the seventh day, the daily Dawn of Pakistan led on Pakistani troops repelling three cross-border raids that India denied had taken place. In New Delhi, the Asian Age led on a much-criticized statement by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes that India would consider granting the guerrillas safe passage back to Pakistan. But Fernandes insisted that “all those who have been pushed into our territory by Pakistan, including their troops, have to go back, dead or alive.” The Indian press has generally advised against any escalation of the war, and the Times of India ran an editorial Wednesday discounting a much-reported remark by the Pakistani foreign minister that “we will not hesitate to use any weapon in our arsenal to defend our territorial integrity.” Pakistan was “crying nuclear wolf,” the paper said. The nuclear gap between the two countries has widened in India’s favor: “Pakistan’s generals may not mind sacrificing a few hundred of their soldiers and Afghan mercenaries to Indian air strikes, but they are not going to expose their own cities to needless risk.”
Back to Kosovo: The conservative National Post of Canada ran a tough editorial Wednesday saying that acceptance of Milosevic’s position on the implementation of the G-8 peace plan would be “little better than a surrender in stages. … Rather than attempting to dictate the niggling terms of peacekeeping, Mr. Milosevic should be obliged to negotiate on the broader subject of Kosovo’s future as an independent state–which has not yet been discussed at all,” it said. The Times of London was equally tough. Milosevic’s “purported acceptance” of the G-8 “general principles” is “meaningless in itself, notable only as a hint of desperation,” it said in an editorial. The only reason for the Finnish president going to Belgrade was “to spell out exactly what Yugoslavia has to do to meet NATO’s own clear demands in full.” But if Milosevic “still needs more clearly to be told, the truth is best conveyed by bombs and by the speedy reinforcement of NATO troops on the ground.”
In Europe, the other main stories were to do with food. Le Soir of Brussels led with the resignation of two Belgian government ministers after a food scare over the sale of chickens and eggs containing high levels of cancer-causing dioxins. The story was given wide coverage throughout Europe, with Corriere della Sera of Milan reporting on its front page that European Union authorities were planning the destruction of chickens and eggs from 416 Belgian farms and possibly also from some farms in France, Holland, and Germany that used contaminated Belgian poultry feed pellets. In Britain, a long-running controversy over genetically modified (GM) crops took on aspects of a constitutional battle after Prince Charles defied Prime Minister Tony Blair by publishing an article Tuesday in the Daily Mail criticizing the regulations governing their production. Blair has repeatedly insisted that genetically modified foods are safe, but the heir to the throne attacked the lack of independent scientific research and said the regulations were not tough enough. The Times reported that Prince Charles is “infuriated” by government efforts to portray anti-GM campaigners as hysterics. As a patron of the Soil Association, which campaigns for organic food, the prince is also said to be upset by an article written by the government’s chief scientific adviser saying the Soil Association was run by “ayatollahs” as a “theological movement.”
China’s Wenhui Daily reported Tuesday that Sang Lan, the Chinese gymnast paralyzed at last year’s Goodwill Games in New York, has accused CNN of failing to help her. Sang said the organizers, Turner Sports, assured her they would cover all costs after a highly publicized vaulting accident July 21 left her with severe spinal cord damage. “In the end, they didn’t produce a penny,” she told the paper.